giving heartPat Traynor believes he lives in “the most generous part of the planet.” Since 2008, he has witnessed hundreds of thousands of generous donors give $165 million to more than 500 local charities in primarily North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. As executive director of Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF), Traynor’s been given a front-row seat to experience the magic of Giving Hearts Day.

Giving Hearts Day is the nation’s longest-running 24-hour giving event, and one of the largest in the country. Participants support local charities through various forms of giving, including monetary donations of $10 or more, donating food or goods at a Giving Hearts Day Food Drive location, or by volunteering.

While Giving Hearts Day only lasts for 24 hours, Feb. 8, more than 600 local charities will use it to build a community of support all year long.

“All these nonprofits are doing really good work, and they’re using this culture of giving promoted on (Giving Hearts Day) to really ignite the hearts of people, frankly, to help throughout the year,” Traynor says.

“The dollars and the time and the goods (donated) are the fuel that will help (local charities) become extraordinary at serving some unmet need or making the greatest community possible,” he says.

Giving Hearts Day, or the “Super Bowl of giving in the Upper Midwest,” spawned from a desire to raise money for worthy local causes, coupled with the knowledge many charities at that time, in 2008, were unfamiliar with online giving. The team behind Giving Hearts Day, which today consists of DMF, the Impact Foundation and the Alex Stern Family Foundation, acts as an aggregator of charities or causes and provides the online platform for donors to give.

“When it started in 2008, there were 40 charities, and we really had to convince them to participate,” Traynor says. That first year, $479,028 was raised.

Last year, $26.1 million was raised for 562 charities!

“With online giving, people give from around the world. There’s people who grew up in Cando, for example, and they’re giving to (charities back home), as well as other charities from all over. It binds people together to their hometown communities, in some cases, that aren’t even here,” Traynor says. “What charities do in these communities is they build health and quality of life – they all do in some way, shape, form or fashion.”

Giving Hearts Day started in Fargo, but its footprint has grown to cover the entire state. Search any N.D. ZIP code in the database and you’ll likely find a local charity there to support, Traynor says.

“Friends, neighbors, family, community… that’s why I think it’s taken off,” he says. “It’s caught on, because more and more people hear about it. They’re serving on these boards and in these communities and saying, ‘Hey, how can we take part?’”

Cally Peterson is editor of North Dakota Living. She can be reached at


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On Feb. 8, visit to give to the local charities you care about. Find more information today at